DEMONSTRATION APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: Kilmer Creek in the District of North Vancouver, completed in June 2020
Note to Reader:
EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is a pragmatic ‘made in BC’ approach to valuation of the ecological services supplied by a stream (one of our most common ecological systems). Think of it as a decision support tool for use by the community and local government.
EAP addresses this question: How do communities decide how much to invest in the natural commons? The EAP methodology and metrics enable a local government to determine the WORTH of the natural commons, with ‘worth’ being the foundation for an annual budget for maintenance and maintenance of ecological assets.
EAP is an initiative of the Partnership for Water Sustainability. EAP considers the system as a whole, takes into account social values, and is guided by how the community uses the natural commons, including influences on nearby parcel values.
In June 2020, the Partnership released Kilmer Creek Re-Alignment in the District of North Vancouver: Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation, the fourth in a series of reports on EAP demonstration applications.
The EAP program has three stages: Test / Refine / Mainstream. During 2017 and 2018, two Stage 1 demonstration applications tested the concept, and demonstrated EAP relevance to local government. In 2019, two Stage 2 demonstration applications resulted in working definitions and consistent application of the EAP methodology. Kilmer Creek is one of the Stage 2 case studies.
“The once-in-a-lifetime redevelopment of the Argyle high school site in North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley is an opportunity for stream restoration in one of the older urban areas,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair
Kilmer Creek is a 1st order stream and is part of the Hastings Creek watershed in the Lynn Valley area of North Vancouver. Based on area, the upper two-thirds is forested mountainside. In the urbanized lower one-third, decades of land use decisions have materially altered the natural drainage system.
Lower Kilmer Restoration in a Lynn Valley Context
“Pending redevelopment of Argyle Secondary School adjacent to Kilmer Creek has opened the door to creek daylighting and realignment. This provides the opportunity to address ecological and conveyance deficiencies in a section of the stream where pre-1960s land use decisions removed the riparian functions,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.
“Two school frontages abut the stream. They account for 55% of the channel length through the area developed prior to streamside regulation. Thus, culvert daylighting plus channel realignment through school lands represent the single, most favourable opportunity to achieve stream restoration in the context of redevelopment in one of the older urban areas of Lynn Valley.
“Stream restoration would enable the school district to fulfill a compelling social obligation, and that is, to recognize its responsibility to support maintenance and management of Kilmer Creek as a natural commons.”
TO LEARN MORE:
Institutional Commons & Social Contract Explained
“Services such as fire protection and schools are a related kind of constructed commons – we define these as the institutional commons. The quality and desirability of neighbourhoods are influenced considerably by the commons services available – natural, constructed and institutional. An implied social contract exists.
“The contract terms are that core services would be supplied through commons systems; and, maintenance and management (M&M) would take place. Thus, there is a social contract expectation that M&M would ensure that commons services would be available in the future. This implies that the assets are valued both socially and financially.”
EAP is a Decision Support Tool
“Application of the EAP methodology and metrics can help to inform an investment strategy for protection and/or restoration of ecological-hydrological function in the natural commons. EAP is particularly relevant to urban and suburban creeksheds drained by a 1st order stream.
“EAP provides metrics to identify and rank social, economic and environmental options for maintaining and enhancing the functioning condition of Kilmer Creek in conjunction with the redevelopment of the Argyle high school property.”
HOW MUCH TO INVEST:
EAP emphasizes social rather than financial values.
EAP employs one financial valuation process – that is, calculation of the land value of the Natural Commons Asset.
BC Assessment land values are used for this calculation.
MEASURES OF RETURN-ON-INVESTMENT:
Improved/restored ecological services.
Bringing the stream back to landmark status.
Satisfying the social contract expectations of the community.
The Research Question
Influence on Property Values
“Many variables influence the character and appeal of neighbourhoods. These variables include land use design, the size, age, type of housing and other improvements; as well as landscaping and natural features such as streams,” continues Tim Pringle.
“The EAP analysis used data for parcel value (land only) and area reported by the BC Assessment Authority. Assessed values reflect decades of choices made by purchasers and sellers.”
Worth of the Natural Commons Asset (NCA)
“As an ecological system altered by historical land use, Kilmer Creek requires maintenance and management – that is, M&M.
“The EAP analysis determined that the financial value of the Kilmer Creek NCA is about $2.9 million per kilometre. This provides a starting point for establishing an annual budget for M&M. The baseline might reasonably be set at 1% of the NCA value.”
Implications for Asset Management Strategies and Plans
“The idea of a natural commons supporting a package of ecological services which the community wants and expects to have implies that approved plans for land development should not result in ecological services being merely residual outcomes. Should the community simply be happy with what is left,” asks Tim Pringle.
“The commons concept includes social, ecological and financial values. EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, represents the social perspective and is the way for the community to get into the conversation about valuation of ecological systems and services.”
The Natural Commons is a Land Use
“In the process of doing our research, we arrived at an important insight about ecological assets; that is, an ecological commons is a land use. Regulations define stream functions and setback requirements. Whether it is a pond, wetland or riparian zone, it can be measured.
“The assessed values of adjacent parcels can be used to provide a financial value for the natural commons. The inference is that the area occupied by the natural commons would be zoned residential or whatever if the stream was not there.
“BC Assessment provides longitudinal measures of property valuesdistinguishing the financial values of land and improvements. Assessments of parcel values are comprehensive and comparative based on sales of interests in properties.
“An important perspective on assessment data is that it captures the preferences of purchasers and sellers. Not only is the sales price of transactions reflected, so is the quality of worth.”
Ecological Systems provide Core Municipal Services
“Streams (as defined in the Riparian Areas Regulations) intercept and detain rainwater, convey flows from storm sewers, provide alignments for trails and greenways while supporting local aquatic and terrestrial life.
“These and other services influence quality of life and the financial value of land parcels. Maintenance and management (M&M) of ecological assets should therefore be planned as core municipal services.
“Residents and property owners are familiar with constructed commons services – roads, potable water, storm sewers and many other ongoing services. They expect these services to endure. Similarly, communities expect the ecological services provided by the natural commons to be enduring.”
TO LEARN MORE:
To read the report in its entirety, download a copy of Kilmer Creek Re-Alignment in the District of North Vancouver: Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation.
The ultimate desired outcome in applying EAP is to reconnect hydrology and ecology in the built environment. Once hydrologic function is restored, maintenance and management of ecological assets would be sustainable.